Raising Driftless Kids

Ainsley Anderson

Welcome, February. We’re halfway through the school year. It’s been almost a year since the pandemic hit home in Wisconsin. What a year it’s been. I think the walls of my children’s bedroom have been closing in on them inches at a time over this year. They fluctuate between being thankful to have one another’s company to screaming at one another at the top of their lungs. The latter has me gritting my teeth and trying not to raise my voice. Sometimes I fail at this, resolving the situation with apologies and hugs, determined to do better.

It’s not a glamorous, idyllic, Insta-worthy life in our household these days. We haven’t taken up new exercise routines, blown through all of the books in our to-be-read pile, nor become amazing at any particular crafts. I have memorized a recipe for peasant bread, though. I guess that’s something.

I’m pretty impressed with some of the scenes that I’ve witnessed from my children. They are remarkably creative. It seems as soon as I think it’s time for a bedroom clean-out and donating session they miraculously pull everything from the shelves and bins and create a magnificent city with it, playing imaginatively with one another. Dinosaurs, superheroes and dolls coexist in a block and brick utopia crafted from their imaginations. These sessions typically last for hours at a time with little disagreement.  

I am so thankful for these moments. I am thankful that they are not begging for screen time. They aren’t begging to play video games or video chat with their friends. I think the novelty of the screens is wearing on them and they are deeply craving the personal connections that they are missing from seeing their friends in person.

I see this with my students as well. I love listening to them just talk to one another, not prompted by discussion questions, but just talking, just communicating in our online classes. Those moments in my virtual classroom are so precious because they are missing one another. They are missing out on partner work, play dates and just hanging out with their friends. They crave that time away from their screens, yet they flock to their screens to find some connection.  

A solution that I am proud of is that we’ve done a much better job of implementing a family game night. We still love our movie nights, snuggled up with big bowls of popcorn. However, the game nights allow us to get a little silly with one another. Plus, during game nights our kids are developing some of the cooperative play skills that they would have if they were learning in person. And, if we play our cards right (no pun intended), the games sneak in extra reading, math, patterning and cooperative play skills.

There’s no perfection in pandemic parenting. We’re trying. I try to take stock of how fortunate we have been to stay safe and healthy. Onward and upward. In health, wellness, happiness and maybe a little more silliness than normal. We’ve earned it.

Ainsley Rowe Anderson is a mom of three whose roots run deep in the Driftless Area mineral districts of Wisconsin and Illinois. She is a teacher who enjoys sharing her thoughts on raising children in the Driftless in this space on a rotating basis with other columnists focused on education and kids.